Volume 9 Number 5
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. Testimonials and Research
MONTHLY RESPONSIBILITY AND LEARNING QUOTE:
“A problem is a problem only when you label it a problem.”
–William Glasser, M.D.
REWARD or COMPENSATION?
I was asked the following:
What is a good response to people who argue that extrinsic
rewards are okay because it’s like adults getting a
paycheck? When people say this, I cringe. I know it’s not
the same, but I don’t know how to argue intelligently with
Employment is a social contract. People provide service for
compensation. The only thing a fee for service has in common
with a reward is that it may involve legal tender. When was
the last time you looked at your paycheck and thanked your
employer for the reward?
I have added a new link for visuals to my homepage:
The link contains visuals of:
(1) The procedure described for impulse management
(2) The Hierarchy of Social Development
The procedure described for impulse management
and for the Hierarchy of Social Development
A simple visual and a procedure for quickly obtaining
Poster for primary students
LEVELS OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Descriptors of the levels for all grade levels
ALARM CLOCK ANALOGY
How to use the hierarchy to prompt students to get to school
The hierarchy as it relates to READING
The hierarchy as it relates to MATH
The hierarchy as it relates to SPELLING
The hierarchy as it relates to PERSEVERANCE
The hierarchy as it relates to PHYSICAL EDUCATION
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
The May 2009 edition of
EDUCATION LEADERSHIP, the
journal of the Association for Supervision and Development
(ASCD) has published an article by Kerry Weisner, who I
often quote in this newsletter.
ASCD’s journal is the most widely distributed educational
journal in the world. To have an article included in the
publication is an honor few educators achieve. The article
explains how Kerry’s elementary school changed FROM making
daily announcements that told students what was expected,
TO ASKING REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS. Instead of listening
passively, students were prompted to THINK. As a result they
became more engaged and interested in implementing the
messages of the announcements.
The approach is so simple yet so effective in promoting
responsibility. The entire article can be read online at
or download the article in portable document format (pdf) at
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
The following are a few highlights about making the brain
more effective from the February/March, 2009 issue of
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND:
Scientists are finding that the adult brain is far more
malleable than they once thought. Our behavior and
environment can cause substantial rewiring of the brain or a
reorganization of its functions including where they are
located. EVEN OUR PATTERNS OF THINKING ALONE ARE ENOUGH TO
RESHAPE THE BRAIN.
Researchers now know that neurogenesis (the birth of new
neutrons) is a normal feature of the adult brain. Studies
have shown that one of the most active regions for
neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a structure that is vitally
important for learning and long-term memory.
Mental AND physical exercise boost neuron survival. New
cells need connections with other neurons that are already
Following are some suggestions for increasing brain power:
Exercise can improve the brain’s executive functions of
planning, organizing, and multi-switching to name a few.
Exercise is also well known for its mood-boosting effects,
and people who exercise are less likely to develop dementia
as they age.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which also
increases the delivery of oxygen, fuel, and nutrients that
encourages growth, communication, and survival of neurons.
Exercise also improves sleep quality and immune functions.
Senior citizens have shown that as little as 20 minutes of
walking a day can do the trick.
Omega-3 fats found in fish, nuts, and seeds–along with
fruits and vegetables–appear to be brain superfoods. Some
of the best brain foods: walnuts, blueberries, and spinach.
The auditory cortex analyzes many components of music’s
volume, pitch, timbre, melody and rhythm. However, there is
more to musicÕs interaction with the brain than just the raw
sound. Music can also activate the brain’s reward centers
and depress activity in the amygdala, thereby reducing fear
and other negative emotions.
Of course, I would add the three principles to practice:
POSITIVITY prompts good feelings and promotes healthy neural
connections, CHOICE empowers and reduces the disempowering
and negative emotions of victimhood thinking, and REFLECTION
prompts thinking that activates and creates new neural
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
Last month I wrote about CLARITY being far more
Here is an example that changed from a “telling” approach to
ASKING A CREATIVE, REFLECTIVE QUESTION THAT–THROUGH
CLARIFICATION–INFLUENCED THE WORLD.
The event occurred on November 20, 1985 at Fleur d’Eau,
Geneva, Switzerland, during the Geneva Summit meeting
between the U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, and the USSR
General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev accused
Reagan of lecturing him. Reagan responded that he (Reagan)
had been misinterpreted.
Later that afternoon, Reagan asked Gorbachev (and only their
interpreters) to go on a short walk to the cabin by the
lake. During the conversation the president asked the
following question to the general secretary: “If the United
States were to be attacked by something from outer space,
would the U.S.S.R. come to the rescue of the United States?”
Gorbachev responded, “Of course.”
Reagan responded, “Me, too,” meaning that it would be the
same if the situation were to be reversed.
The question asked and the resulting response immediately
changed the relationship between the two world leaders and
marked the beginning of the end to the “cold war.”
To review, telling or lecturing (versus sharing) was
reduced by asking a brilliant, reflective, and creative
question. This led to CLARIFICATION THAT INFLUENCED,
IMPROVED RELATIONSHIPS, AND ESTABLISHED A FRESH MINDSET.
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
THE SERIOUS NEED FOR PLAY – A few highlights, also from the
February/March, 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind:
“Free play,” as scientists call it, is critical for becoming
socially adept, coping with stress, and building cognitive
skills such as problem solving. Play-deprived childhood
disrupts normal social, emotional and cognitive development.
Psychologists say that limiting free play in kids may result
in a generation of anxious, unhappy, and socially
Why are experts concerned that structured games–such as
soccer and more structured activities–are eating into free
play? Certainly games with rules are fun, foster learning to
work with others, and develop group cohesion.
The reason is that games have rules set up in advance to
follow. Play, on the other hand, does not have a priori
rules, so it affords more creative responses. This creative
aspect is key because it challenges the developing brain
more than following predetermined rules do. In free play,
kids use their imagination and try out new activities and
Children’s free play involves fantasies–such as pretending
to be doctors or princesses or playing house–or mock
fighting, as when kids (primarily boys) wrestle and tumble
with one another for fun, switching roles periodically so
that neither of them always wins. The activity does not
need to have a clear goal.
Play helps develop social skills. Young people don’t become
SOCIALLY COMPETENT by teachers telling them how to behave.
Those skills are learned by interacting with peers, by
learning what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable.
Because kids enjoy an activity, they develop persistence and
negotiating abilities. They do not give up as easily in the
face of frustration as they might doing a math problem.
Play is also critical for emotional health because it helps
kids work through anxiety and stress. Through imaginative
play, which is most easily initiated without adults or
rules, children build fantasies that help them cope with
difficult situations. Play encourages flexibility and
creativity that may be advantageous in unexpected situations
or new environments.
Relieving stress and building social skills also seem to be
the obvious benefits of play. But there is another, more
counterintuitive area of influence: Play actually appears to
make kids smarter. Play improves problem solving. By playing
with blocks or a Quaker Oats box, for example, youngsters
spend less time in unproductive developmental activities
such as watching television. (Even when young people are
watching educational programs, the activity of watching
is a passive one rather than an active one.)
Many parents believe they are acting in their children’s
best interests when they swap free play for what they see as
structured learning activities. Some hesitate to let their
kids play outside unattended; they fret about the
possibility of physical harm that sometimes arise during
play fighting or rambunctious fantasy play. A child who has
had a rich exposure to social play experiences is more
likely to become an adult who can manage unpredictable
Parents should let their children be children–not just
because it should be fun to be a child but because denying
youth unfettered joys keeps kids from developing into
inquisitive, creative creatures. Play has to be reframed and
seen not as an opposite to learning but rather as a
complement. Curiosity, imagination and creative are like
muscles: if you don’t use them, you lose them.
Reducing “free play” in attempts to promote academic
achievement (as in making kindergarten into first grade) is
another well-intentioned but counterproductive approach–as
are the others at
6. Discipline without Stress
The following was from a post and response on the mailring:
I have questions about the levels. Is it possible to use the
levels as a self-evaluation tool for any inappropriate or
Here is an example of what I mean. My 6th graders had real
difficulty staying on task in reading group. I told them
before we began reading group, I was going to ask them some
questions and that they needed to be completely honest with
themselves by raising a hand to the answer that best
describes what they do.
When you break into reading groups do you:
A/B – Make little or no effort to read or practice while
misbehaving or disturbing others?
C – Practice and focus only when an adult is near you to
impress the teacher (external motivation)?
D – Display a desire to read by reading even when the
teacher is not looking and remaining focused the
whole time (internal motivation)?
Out of 25 kids, 5 raised their hands for A/B, 15 raised
there hand for C, and 5 raised their hand for level D.
When I asked them which one they thought was the best, they
all raised their hands for D. I then told them that was what
I expected from them for the remaining time during reading
class. They lived up to it.
Was it an intrinsic reaction, or was it the fact that the
majority of the class assessed themselves as externally
driven and were therefore just seeking my approval?
You will never know!
We can only accurately judge the level of our OWN behaviour.
We cannot judge whether ANOTHER PERSON is at Level C or D
simply because we don’t have access to the internal thoughts
of another person. That’s why the DWS Hierarchy is a tool of
self-assessment. It’s not a tool that a teacher can use to
assess a student. We don’t know (with 100% certainty,) what
is motivating another person to act as they do. All we can
see is the behaviour, not the motivation. We can accurately
judge the behaviours of Level A and B, but we can only guess
at the motivational levels in another person (C or D.)
The good news is this: It doesn’t matter whether or not we
can accurately assess a student’s level. It doesn’t even
matter if students decide to choose Level C rather than D.
It is not our job to have everyone operate from Level D
The very definition of Level D motivation is that it be
heartfelt and genuine. Our job is simply to make students
aware of their choices and then inspire them to aim for a
high/higher choice. LEVEL C IS EXPECTED, LEVEL D IS
It’s important that students understand that operating at
any particular level is a personal choice and that BOTH
Levels C and D are completely acceptable. Of course, the
benefits to someone motivated on Level D are greater than
the benefits a person receives when they choose Level C.
This difference in benefits is what motivates many people to
WANT to move up a notch in any given situation. This link
might be of use to you:
Once a person consciously becomes aware of the the benefits
of Level D, they very often strive to experience them again
and again and again; the process just naturally spirals
upward. I found the information Marv shared in his February
2009 e-zine, regarding the release of opiates in the brain
in response to Level D behaviour, really interesting. No
wonder Level D is so powerful! No wonder people are inspired
to repeat this level once they have experienced it. Nature
is on our side–providing a reward like no other!
(The link Kerry referred to is at
By asking the kids to assess themselves SILENTLY, you avoid
problems that might interfere with your objective. For
instance, when people are asked to reflect silently, they
are more inclined to be totally honest with themselves,
instead of being focused on denying responsibility or trying
to impress others. These things might happen when students
announce their assessed level in the presence of others.
I have found that the more often you discuss the benefits of
Level D, the more people become interested in trying them
out. I tell students that I expect them to operate at Level
C by following the procedures I have taught. Then I let
them know that Level D motivation is an OPTION they can
CHOOSE if they want to experience greater benefits.
EXPLAINED AS A CHOICE, the highest level becomes even more
I often think that one of the very best ways to learn to use
DWS is by first learning how to motivate kids in academic
situations such as the one you described. If a person does
this PROACTIVELY (rather than trying to fix an academic
situation where the kids are already poorly behaved or
unfocused), then it’s easy to be positive. If a teacher is
finding it hard to learn how to use the Hierarchy in
discipline situations, my advice is to leave it for awhile,
switch the focus to using the Hierarchy in academic
settings. In time this practice will make it easier for the
teacher to remain positive in discipline situations, too.
The following link gives more information about implementing
PART IV of the DWS Teaching Model:
(More of Kerry’s posts are at http://disciplineanswers.com/)
Your presentation was rated among the best at the
conference, and there is quite a “buzz” about the simplicity
of your discipline management system.
Len A. Davidson
International Best Practice Network
Kingston, Jamaica West Indies